After an impressive opening victory against formerly #10 North Carolina 17-10, Virginia Tech looks to avoid a letdown against a Middle Tennessee team with a veteran coach in Rick Stockstill, former NC State QB Bailey Hockman at the helm, and a roster full of players hungry to pull off a big upset.
So will the Hokies be in for a long day in the office or will they make this a less stressful Saturday inside Lane Stadium? Here's our picks for the Hokies versus the Blue Raiders.
While there are plenty of fears because of past history regarding the Hokies after a big win, I think Tech fans can have great confidence even with MTSU having a good amount of coaching and QB experience.
It all starts with Tech's defense that was absolutely dominant last week and faces a MTSU offense that was one-dimensional against Monmouth last week averaging under 3 yards per rush. Given the Hokies' strong defensive line, this seems like a major mismatch while Tech's defensive backs are a clear upgrade from Monmouth and will provide the Blue Raiders with all sorts of problems.
Offensively, the Hokies only had 2 turnovers last week and while MTSU's defense was good at forcing turnovers especially fumbles, they gave up lots of yards to Monmouth. Expect the Hokies to come out looking to put on a show and try to stretch the field more in the passing game while leaning on their running game when they need to.
While it's definitely possible this could be a close game, I expect the Hokies to comfortably take care of business led by a strong day from the defensive line and Tech's big receiver playmakers like Tre Turner, James Mitchell, and Tayvion Robinson.
Pick: #19 Virginia Tech 38, Middle Tennessee 10
The Hokies set the standard with a much needed, program-boosting win last week but now have to stay consistent with that standard. That includes not failing to show up against a weaker MTSU squad visiting Lane Stadium. Former NC State QB Bailey Hockman had a successful week one against Monmouth for MTSU so Tech will need another strong defensive showing to ensure this one isn't close. The Hokies' front seven was overwhelming against the Tar Heels offensive line, making the defensive backs' jobs much easier and I anticipate the same happening on Saturday afternoon.
Pick: #19 Virginia Tech 35, Middle Tennessee 10
After starting off the season with a statement conference victory, the Hokies look to keep the good times rolling against Middle Tennessee State.
In the battle of unbeatens at Lane Stadium, the defense will have to show up for both sides if either team will want to walk out of Lane Stadium with a 2-0 record.
In Virginia Tech’s season opening victory against North Carolina, they held Sam Howell and the Tar Heels offense to ten points on the night; a significant progression after allowing 32 points per game in 2020.
Meanwhile at Middle Tennessee State, the Blue Raiders shut the Monmouth offense down en route to their 50-15 victory. A large part of their success brewed from forcing the Hawks to commit four turnovers on the day.
In the season opener against Monmouth, transfer quarterback Bailey Hockman from N.C. State had a solid Middle Tennessee debut; completing 17 of the 22 throws while delivering three touchdowns through the air.
When Hockman and the Wolfpack came to Lane Stadium in 2020, it was a disappointing performance for the Powder Springs, GA native who went 7-16 on his throws including two interceptions in a 45-24 defeat.
Despite a strong opening drive for the Hokies last Friday, the offense did not have a solid showing throughout the night by producing ten points in ten drives after that. I believe that if the Hokies want to have a convincing result on Saturday, the offense will have to deliver a much better performance.
One part of the Virginia Tech offense that I look to see make necessary improvements on Saturday is the rushing attack. The Hokie ball handlers only averaged 3 yards per carry where Jalen Holsten had 49 yards on 13 carries and Raheem Blackshear had 16 yards on 11 carries.
Although the term “trap game” has been thrown around in Blacksburg, I believe that the Hokies will take care of business on Saturday and continue to build off the quality start last week.